Enda Bolger can strike at Killarney with Auvergnat
JESSICA Harrington launches a twin-pronged assault on the McSweeney Arms Hotel Chase, one of two €40k chases at Killarney's second eight-race stage this evening.
Heading her team is Cheltenham Festival hero Rock The World, whose Grand Annual success there earned him a tilt at the Champion Chase at Punchestown, where he was far from disgraced in finishing fourth behind Fox Norton and Un De Sceaux in that two-miler, beaten under nine lengths.
Joining him in this extended two-and-a-half mile Grade Three line-up is stable companion Woodland Opera, who is less exposed but has shaped like a potential high-class performer with victories at Fairyhouse and Punchestown, beating Arbre De Vie on the most recent occasion.
Ballycasey has to concede upwards of 8lb to his five rivals and was one position adrift of Rock The World last time but weight terms this time are not in the grey's favour. Wouldn't surprise to find the pair Rock The World and Woodland Opera heading the market for a race which has only seen one winning favourite over the last seven years..
The Finbarr Slattery Memorial Killarney National Handicap Chase shares top billing, and Auvergnat attempts to give Enda Bolger back-to-back wins in the race.
The seven-year-old is similar to last year's scorer Cantlow in that he usually competes over cross-country courses and he was an honourable fourth at Cheltenham behind Cause Of Causes in March.
He was rated a BHA 131 performer in that race and is racing off an Irish handicap mark of 118 this evening. The McManus colours are also carried by Whatareudoingtome in this but I'd be surprised if Auvergnat isn't the pick of the pair, while recent Down Royal runner-up Net D'Ecosse is the pick of the Noel Meade runners.
Arbre De Vie made Woodland Opera pull out all the stops at Punchestown and reverts to the smaller obstacles for the Sliabh Luachra Hurdle. He's a 140 performer over fences and there are a couple of others including Gordon Elliott's duo Flaxen Flare and long-absent Vukovar that are in that category too.
I thought this looked a nice opportunity and could be a good bit of placing by Willie Mullins, whose Miss Me Now returns from a break, after pulling up lame on her last track appearance at Thurles back in December, in the Killarney Racecourse Handicap Hurdle.
This is a very competitive affair, though, and the decent prize money has tempted Fergal O'Brien to send Miss Maiden Over from his Gloucestershire base. The ones that stood out for me were Meade's Clara Sorrento and John Kiely's Brave Out with Little Steve and Hurricane Darwin also worthy of interest.
Harrington has opted to switch Jetz back to hurdling in the two-mile opener after some less-than-inspiring placed efforts in bumpers.
Harold Peto looks a short-priced favourite in this, though, with de Bromhead's Moroval the obvious threat.
Harrington's Fintara tops the list for the mares' maiden hurdle but this has the appearance of an open contest with Meade's Une Lavandiere and Christy Roche's Open To The World both likely to be of interest.
Cerealice, a half-sister to Group One hurdler Bacardys, also commands attention and the booking of Ruby Walsh for Wilms Warrior carries its own message. Black Franks Angel and Blazes Peg are two others with chances.
Minella For Value was third in the Champion Hunters Chase at Punchestown and has his sights lowered for the hunters chase but Sizing Solution seems to be thriving at the moment.
5.10 Harold Peto
5.40 Ardre De Vie (Dbl)
6.10 Clara Sorrento
7.10 Woodland Opera
7.40 Auvergnat (Nap)
8.10 Sizing Solution
8.40 Decision Time
6.10 Brave Out
6.40 Une Lavandiere
7.10 Rock the World
7.40 Net D'Ecosse
8.10 Minella For Value
8.40 Oath Breaker